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Cal Men's Basketball lays siege to the USC Trojans

Fasten your seat belts, Cal fans. Your sturdy Golden Bears are road trippin' to SoCal. First stop: Dunk City.

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It used to be a lot of fun writing previews for the USC Trojans. Between ex-Coach Kevin O'Neill getting inebriated and belligerent at the hotel bar, or players getting suspended for "anti-Spokane" rhetoric, the material practically wrote itself. Throw in a few Brute Squad jabs at their trio of homely 7'ers and it's a done deal.

New Coach Andy Enfield is like Kevin O'Neill's good twin from a mirror universe. His brand of basketball is exciting, he seems likable, and he still has hair. Made famous by last year's improbable Cinderella run by Florida Gulf Coast University, he's hoping to reinvigorate a sputtering Trojan program.

"We play up-tempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA."

FGCU was known for their uptempo attack which rained threes and alley oop dunks from the moment they stepped off the bus. Unfortunately for USC, their personnel doesn't exactly mesh with Coach Enfield's preferred style of play.

They're an extremely poor three-point shooting team and their best bigs are made to plod, not race.

On defense, they want to press and to force turnovers. However, they lack the depth to do so effectively. Because they usually go with four out, one in, they are primarily a zone team.

But although they were picked to finish near the conference cellar and have started league play on the woodshed end of four blowouts, USC also managed non-conference upsets over Xavier and Dayton. With their all-out style of play, they're the very definition of a high-risk, high-reward team. At home, playing loose under a coach who encourages barely controlled chaos, they could catch fire at any moment and be a serious upset threat. Naturally, that type of outlier performance never happens against us.

Resident hoops maven Reef is concerned:

"ok, since this is basically over, I’ll say right now, we better be ready next week
we could easily get swept
they’re better than WSU
scenario: we play like this, it’s tougher on the road to just turn it on, we lose a close one on some random b.s. at the end, we’re screwed going to Pauley
something like that
by Reef on Jan 18, 2014 | 2:37 PM up reply rec flag actions"

This one shapes up to be a track meet. At the very least, it should be more entertaining basketball than O'Neill's nails-on-the-chalkboard grind-it-out style.

Projected Starters:

C Omar Oraby(Sr), 7'2, 270 lbs, 8.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg
F Nikola Jovanovic(Fr), 6'10, 215 lbs, 9.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg
G Pe'Shon Howard(Sr), 6'3, 190 lbs, 9.8 ppg, 4.1 apg
G Byron Wesley(Jr), 6'5, 210 lbs, 17.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg
G Julian Jacobs(Fr), 6'3, 180 lbs, 7.5 ppg, 4.4 apg


G J.T. Terrell(Sr), 6'3, 185 lbs, 9.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg
F Strahinja Gavrilovic(So), 6'9, 225 lbs, 2.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg
C D.J. Haley(Sr), 3.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg

Omar Oraby and D.J. Haley were saved from unemployment in Greenland by the lure of Div-I ball. Last year, Oraby was more of a shot-blocker/rebounder. This year, he's showing better touch around the basket. D.J. Haley was a bit of stiff last year. Not much has changed. Nikola Jovanovic was a highly regarded high school player from Florida who also has experience playing on the Serbian Junior Team. Like many European bigs, he's a skilled player with an all-around game that includes range beyond the arc. Pe'Shon Howard is a transfer from Maryland. He was granted a hardship waiver to be closer to his ailing grandmother. He's their most dangerous three-point shooter, but is also a great set-up man. He was on the Bob Cousy national watch list last year as one of the nation's best point guards. Precocious frosh Julian Jacobs is an explosive leaper who is a perfect fit for the Dunk City community. Although known more for his ability to take it to the rim, he's been surprisingly good as a passer. Byron Wesley is another player who has really flourished in Enfield's system. Still more of scorer than a jump shooter, he's dangerous slashing to the hoop to finish or draw fouls. Sixth man J.T. Terrell led the conference last year in made three-pointers per game. For some reason, he's been cold from deep (26%) this season, but you still have to respect him as a threat.

Key Matchups:

1) Wallace vs. Wesley

Overall, Cal is the more talented, experienced team and we're playing better basketball. But when the Trojans have pulled their big upsets, it's because either Wesley or Howard went out of their mind for a big scoring night. Tyrone Wallace did a great job making CJ Wilcox work for his points. Wesley is a different type of cover. He's extremely strong, but he's a poor shooter from beyond the arc. Wallace will need to play him for the drive and avoid putting him on the line.

2) Cobbs vs. Howard

This is an old-school battle between two savvy senior point guards. Both are great distributors who can also call their own number and score from deep or at the rim. Cobbs will need to stay out of foul trouble and make sure that the Bears don't get sucked into playing too fast.

3) Transition Defense and Backdoor Lobs

Cal got caught out of position a few times against UW. If the Huskies like to run, the Trojans like to race in fancy tricked-out cars horked on nitrous. I'm sure Monty and his staff pointed out the breakdowns on film and reminded the guys of their assignments.

Go Bears!

Tip-Off: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014, 8pm
Television: ESPNU
Radio: KGO 810 AM

*For those SoCal Bears going to the game, join up with your fellow Cal fans!